Last week, the fam and I had the opportunity to do one of the most popular backpacker attractions in Laos, tubing down the lazy Nam Song river in Vang Vieng. It was my mom’s idea to come to Laos in the first place and while some of us wanted to remain in Thailand, we thought it would be nice to indulge her and head across the border. We first entered Laos via a slow boat (which despite what my mom says is in fact very, very slow) to Luang Prabang. From Luang Prabang we headed to Vang Vieng. Here we would tube. Our first day in Vang Vieng we found our hotel, walked around, viewed some local scenery (the amazing mountains), and had a not so pleasant dinner. We went to sleep looking forward for the next day and tubing.
We woke up and made our way to the city center and the tubing station. Here we suited up with water proof bags, tubes, and ropes–all the essentials for a day on the river. We loaded our gear on the tuk-tuk and headed for the river. On the drive there we met some other American around the world travelers from Los Angeles of all places. We talked to them for a while and found out that they were going the opposite direction of us and had already been to many of the places that we were planning to go. After ten minutes on the tuk tuk we were at the river. From here we encountered a little trouble. The life jackets that were given to Kieran and Asher were way, way too big and the holes in the tubes were also too big for them. We improvised a little and used Asher’s life jacket to make a seat in her tube. Kieran opted to keep the life jacket on. We tied Kieran and Asher’s tubes to my mom’s and after a good twenty minutes of waiting on the banks of the river, we were off.
Immediately we passed by some vendors yelling, “Beer Lao! Beer Lao!” (we would get very used to that soon). They weren’t only offering Beer Lao though, there was a perk. If you bought Beer Lao (or any drink for that matter) from the vendors, you would get a free go on their ‘swing’. These swings were giant ropes with handlebars attached that send you flying over the water at a pretty high speed. I instantly knew I had to do it. The first few were small and over areas that seemed not safe. Maybe the fact that no one was at them was a good indicator. Twenty minutes in, however, we reached the two biggest swings. One you simply jumped off and held on to a bungy cord with a hand attached. The other was a flying fox-like contraption that swung you in a pendulum. I had to try one. We ordered our drinks and got in line for the pendulum swing. First up was Tom, he blazed across the swing and launched into the water at the peak of his swing. McKane was next. He held on for a few swings and then dropped. I was last. I climbed up on the platform, grabbed the handles, and launched off. I don’t really know what I was thinking but about three fifths of the way through the first swing of the pendulum I let go and backflipped into the water. My family was surprised since only a few days earlier I was talking about my fear of the motion required to do backflips. We couldn’t get enough of the swing. Mac went four more times and I went twice. Mac milked every last second he could of the ride by holding on till he had almost stopped swinging. On my second try, I backflipped again but still not very well. I attempted it one last time. On my last swing I waited till I reached the pinnacle of the pendulum and then let go and busted a huge, clean backflip. After that jump I was done, I didn’t want to risk getting anynmore water in my ears than I already had.
We hopped back in our tubes and floated down the river. We floated for three more hours, enjoying the sun, the scenery and a chance to nap. It was rather relaxing. We moved slowly down the river every once in a while passing a person yelling “Come on! Jump! Beer Lao!” It was nice to have time just to sit in an inner tube and do nothing. We reached the end of the run a little before night fall and made our way back to the city center and tubing office. We turned in our tubes and ate some pancakes. Except for the massive amounts of water stuck in my ears (it still hasn’t come out), the giant sunburn engulfing the parts of my chest I missed with the sunscreen, and being pegged with algae by Mac, it was a pretty good day.